Early cuts can expect visit from 'Grim Reaper'

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

When Mike Kelly starts handing out pink slips this morning, it will have more to do with the player's mind than with his body.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach plans to cut approximately 15 players today to get down to a more manageable 60 in the wake of Wednesday night's 32-22 pre-season win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"One of the first things will be: How well did they uphold their assignments?" Kelly said. "And if it's a guy that has a lot of mental busts, regardless of their athletic ability, more or less they're going to be deciding aisle or window.

"The second one for the rookies will be: How much practice time were they able to get? Were they dinged up? Were we able to evaluate them completely? Because you can't get hurt. You can't."

Players will find out they've been released when director of player personnel John Murphy tells them to grab their playbook and head for Kelly's office.

"We've given John Murphy a black hood and a sickle," Kelly joked.

After a chat with the coach they will have an exit meeting with Murphy and then get their plane ticket from director of football operations Ross Hodgkinson.

Kelly said players will not be cut because of how much money they make.

"We are not picking this football team based on contracts," he said. "We've put systems in place, with John Murphy and with Ross Hodgkinson, where we're in a good spot with the salary management system.

"And we won't find ourselves in a situation because of the restructured contracts that we've been able to extend to our core veterans."

Considering this is Kelly's first pro head coaching job, today's cuts will be the first time he's been responsible for a mass cull.

"I've gotten to know these guys," he said, "and I don't want to cut any of them."

The only league-mandated cutdown date is next Thursday afternoon, when teams must declare their 46-man roster and seven-member practice squad.

QB WATCH: Kelly wouldn't commit to keeping four quarterbacks among his final 60, but Bryan Randall appears to be safe after his performance on Wednesday.

The former Virginia Tech pivot completed four of seven passes for 82 yards and scored a rushing touchdown against the Ticats.

"Bryan Randall in particular threw the ball very relaxed," Kelly said. "He's worked on his mechanics very hard, and he's becoming a better passer. He still has a ways to go, but he's becoming a better passer."

DIFFERING OPINIONS: Kelly said earlier this week that Lenny Walls was coming to camp and that the Bombers would try to get the defensive back in the lineup for Tuesday's pre-season game in Montreal.

Murphy, however, reported last night that the Bombers and Walls have not yet agreed to terms on a new deal. Walls has been holding out for a raise since getting traded to Winnipeg from Calgary last month.

LATE HITS: The Bombers have released receiver Kyle Smith ... Defensive tackle Aaron McConnell went home earlier this week for family reasons and is on the suspended list ... The Bombers return to the practice field this afternoon.


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